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Tropical Ecology

“First Full Day”

A man holds a grasshopper in his hand

Andy was happy to capture and show off the grasshoppers and their flashes of color (salmon pink, bright magenta, yellow, etc.) underneath their wings, which are used to startle predators.

Our first full day in Belize began very early with a bird walk at 5:45 am. We were rewarded for rising early with coffee, and then we headed off to explore the land surrounding the lodge. In addition to seeing Belize’s national bird, the keel-billed toucan, we saw a white-necked jacobin, a golden-fronted woodpecker, a spiny-tailed iguana and giant grasshoppers that were similar to our lubbers back home. And the plant life did not disappoint either. We saw starfruit and avocado trees, lobster-claws, and got to taste a velvet apple, a type of fruit that looked like a fuzzy peach with the leaves of a persimmon, that tasted reminiscent of a floral pear.

A group of teachers hikes down a sandy road in open pine forest.

Hiking in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Preserve felt similar to our sandhills region in North Carolina.

After a delicious breakfast, we loaded into the bus and drove to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve where we hiked along the road and then through the jungle — up what we now lovingly refer to as “death hill” due to the steepness and narrowness of the path, the low-hanging branches we had to limbo underneath, and the ever-present heat and humidity — to the entrance to Domingo Ruiz Cave. Once in the cave, we saw stalactites and stalagmites, bats, spiders and kissing bugs; then we sat for a minute in perfect darkness and silence to fully appreciate the majesty of the space.

group of teachers sitting in a cave

Our group sitting inside Domingo Ruiz Cave immediately after our moment of silence in total darkness.

The next cave we visited was named “Rio Frio” (cold river). This is where Late Preclassic and Classic period Maya may have performed sacrifices and other religious ceremonies. Unlike Domingo Ruiz Cave, this one was open on both ends, so we had natural light to aid us as we climbed over rocks to reach a sandy beach along the river running through the cave.

A large open cave entrance with vines hanging down from above

Rustina, Andy and Jeff at the grand entrance to Rio Frio Cave.

silhouette of a woman looking out from a cave into the light

Meredith looks out towards the light and forest from inside Rio Frio Cave.

After a lovely picnic lunch outside the Rio Frio Cave, we headed to the Rio On Pools to cool down after a taxing morning of hiking. We changed into our swimsuits and then got to play like children, clambering over smooth granite rocks, sitting under small waterfalls, sliding into the different pools and swimming around the crevices.

Teachers gather around the base of a small waterfall over smooth granite rocks.

Most of the group at one of the small waterfalls in the Rio On Pools.

We returned to Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge where most of us spent our free hour enjoying the infinity pool, and we then had our daily meeting where we discussed highlights of the day and what we learned from our experiences and our top notch tour guides, Nathan Forbes and Zhawn Poot.

After our fabulous dinner, we are headed off on another night hike. Fingers crossed we find some new creatures to observe.

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2 COMMENTS
  • Karen Fletcher

    7 months ago

    Great picture of Andy Kauffman! I know how happy he is to be there!

  • Karen Fletcher

    7 months ago

    Hi Andy, You look happy with your friend on your hand!
    Love, Mom🦋

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